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Psychological interventions to improve intergroup relations in the asylum context: A multi-perspective approach to transform social conflict

  • The history of human kind is characterized by social conflict. Every conflict can be the starting point of social change or the escalation into more destructive forms. The social conflict in regard to rising numbers of refugees and their acceptance that arose in most host countries in 2015 already took on destructive forms – in Germany, right-wing extremists attacked refugee shelters and even killed multiple people, including political leaders who openly supported refugees. Thus, incompatible expectancies and values of different parts of the society led to violent action tendencies, which tremendously threaten intergroup relations. Psychological research has developed several interventions in past decades to improve intergroup relations, but they fall short, for example, when it comes to the inclusion of people with extreme attitudes and to precisely differentiate potential prosocial outcomes of the interventions. Thus, this dissertation aimed to a) develop psychological interventions, that could also be applied to people with more extreme attitudes, thereby putting a special emphasis on collecting a diverse sample; b) gain knowledge about target- and outcome specific effects: Who benefits from which intervention and how can specific prosocial actions be predicted in order to develop interventions that guide needs-based actions; and c) shed light on potential underlying mechanisms of the interventions. The dissertation will be introduced by the socio-political background that motivated the line of research pursued, before providing an overview of the conceptualization of social conflicts and potential psychological inhibitors and catalyzers for conflict transformation. Based on past research on socio-psychological interventions and their limitations, the aims of the dissertation will be presented in more detail, followed by a short summary of each manuscript. Overall, the present thesis comprises four manuscripts that were summarized in the general discussion into a road map for social-psychological interventions to put them into a broader perspective. The road map aspires to provide recommendations for increasing – either approach-oriented or support-oriented actions – by the socio-psychological interventions for a variety of host society groups depending on their pre-existing attitude towards refugees. A Paradoxical Intervention targeting central beliefs of people with negative attitudes towards refugees influenced inhibitory and catalyzing factors for conflict transformation over the course of three experiments – thereby providing an effective tool to establish approach-oriented action tendencies, such as the willingness to get in contact with refugees. Further, the dissertation presents a novel mechanism – namely Cognitive Flexibility – which could explain the Paradoxical Interventions’ effect of past research. By positively affecting a context-free mindset, the Paradoxical Intervention could impact more flexible thought processes in general, irrespective of the topic tackled in the Paradoxical Intervention itself. For people with rather positive attitudes addressing emotions may increase specific support-oriented action tendencies. The dissertation provides evidence of a positive relation between moral outrage and hierarchy-challenging actions, such as solidarity-based collective action, and sympathy with prosocial hierarchy-maintaining support-oriented actions, such as dependency-oriented helping. These exclusive relations between specific emotions and action intentions provide important implications for the theorizing of emotion-behavior relations, as well as for practical considerations. In addition, a diversity workshop conducted with future diplomats showed indirect effects on solidarity-based collective action via diversity perception and superordinate group identification, thereby extending past research by including action intentions and going beyond the focus on grassroot-initiatives by presenting an implementable intervention for future leaders in a real world context. Taken together, this dissertation provides important insights for the development of socio-psychological interventions. By integrating a diverse sample, including members of institutions on meso- and macro-levels (non-governmental organizations and future politicians) of our society, this dissertation presents a unique multi-perspective of host society members on the social conflict of refugee acceptance and support. Thereby, this work contributes to theoretical and practical advancement of how social psychology can contribute not only to negative peace – by for example (indirectly) reducing support of violence against refugees – but also to positive peace – by for example investigating precursors of hierarchy-challenging actions that enable equal rights.

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Author:Nadine Knab
Advisor:Melanie Steffens, Manfred Schmitt
Document Type:Doctoral Thesis
Date of completion:2020/09/23
Date of publication:2020/09/24
Publishing institution:Universität Koblenz-Landau, Campus Landau, Universitätsbibliothek
Granting institution:Universität Koblenz-Landau, Campus Landau, Fachbereich 8
Date of final exam:2020/09/03
Release Date:2020/09/24
GND Keyword:Sozialpsychologie
Number of pages:174, 9-26 Seiten, 9 ungezählte Seiten
Institutes:Fachbereich 8
Licence (German):License LogoEs gilt das deutsche Urheberrecht: § 53 UrhG